1) The Grealish Factor
From Paul Allen in 1980 through to Aaron Ramsey and Nicolas Anelka in more recent years the FA Cup Final gods have always looked down favourably on talented youngsters. They’re also not averse to a throwing in a soap opera script when the mood takes them.
Nineteen-year-old Jack’s great, great grandfather Billy Garraty helped win the cup for Villa back in 1905 which coincidentally was when the winger’s hairstyle was last in vogue. With history as a team-mate and a touch of divine intervention all the cosmic signs point to a Grealish wondershow.
2) The Sherwood Shuffle
Admit it, you thought getting comprehensively slaughtered by Southampton then losing last weekend to relegated Burnley bode badly for Villa ahead of their biggest game since Shay Given was in nappies. Understandable I guess but you have in fact been rope-a-doped by Tim the tactician, a victim of the Sherwood Shuffle. Using every ounce of his incomparable wiles and undeniable genius Timothy ordered his players to put in two horror performances prior to the final to induce complacency in Wenger’s boys.
How do you feel now? A bit silly? It’s okay, he fooled us all.
3) Glory favours the brave
Nothing will sink a Villa heart more on Saturday than seeing their team place ten behind the ball and look to counter. The strategy would delight the Gunners’ array of one-touch schemers and inevitably lead to a 90-minute rerun of the Arsenal Show. Thankfully there is slim chance of this happening with Sherwood in charge who – joshing aside – is as brave a manager as they come. He has already vowed to go ‘toe-to-toe’ on the lush Wembley turf, a mandate that served them extremely well in the semi-final and plays to their strengths rather than papering over weaknesses. As Reading showed in the corresponding semi Arsenal are prone to forgetting their lines when squared up to and considering the sheer ugliness of Hutton and Cleverly it’s to Villa’s benefit to get up close and personal.[embedded content]
4) If you want to get ahead get a head
In the 1980s cup final upsets were so commonplace they almost became the norm. Brooking nodding home for the Hammers; Houchen diving for glory; Sanchez twisting mid-air to see Grobbelaar flapping; Gordon Smith clean through against United with the goal at his mercy. Okay perhaps that was a bad example but if we include the only underdogs from the past 20 years to triumph – Wigan courtesy of Ben Watson’s late header v Manchester City – it illustrates two pertinent points. We’re due another fairytale and should the magic of the cup provide one it will likely come from a Villa forehead. Mertesacker beware because we’re offering a tempting 19/10 on a Benteke farewell present.[embedded content]
5) The lion roars
The last time Aston Villa lifted the cup Britain was embroiled in the Suez Crisis, Elvis was svelte, and people smoked cigarettes to get rid of colds. Men wore hats. The naysayers may claim the FA Cup has lost its allure. That the romance is dead, the alchemy has run dry, and now Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea share it between them like a holiday let in Margate. They’re wrong. The magic of the cup doesn’t reside in postmen and plumbers scoring against household names and it certainly doesn’t reside in a Cazorla free-kick or Wilshere scuff. It resides in the hope. Pop legends Tight Fit once sang that the lion sleeps tonight. On Saturday it will awaken. And it will roar.
Arsenal are just 2/7 to lift the FA Cup, with Aston Villa at 11/4. Can Sherwood’s men spring a surprise? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting @Betfair.